ONE STEP FORWARD Michigan’s new medical cannabis laws bring much-needed changes to the existing program

Amendments to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act took effect on December 20, 2016. In addition to cannabis leaves and flowers, the definition of usable cannabis now includes the words “resin” and “extract.” A patient now may possess up to 2.5 ounces of any combination of leaves, flowers, resin or extract, intended for use by combustion or vaporization.

The law now allows patients to possess cannabis-infused products, meaning a topical formulation, tincture, beverage or edible substance intended for consumption in a manner other than smoke inhalation. The quantity of these products allowed to be possessed by a patient are governed by new “marihuana equivalents,” and a patient is allowed to possess a combined total of 2.5 ounces of usable cannabis and usable cannabis equivalents. Likewise, a caregiver may possess a combined total of 2.5 ounces for each patient for whom they are the registered caregiver.

“The law now allows patients to possess cannabis-infused products, meaning a topical formulation, tincture, beverage or edible substance intended for consumption in a manner other than smoke inhalation.”

The ratios for equivalents are as follows: For each ounce of usable cannabis, a patient or caregiver may possess any combination of seven grams of gas (inhalers are now being produced in Israel), 16 ounces of product in solid form or 36 fluid ounces of product in liquid form. It is now legal for a patient to manufacture a cannabis-infused products for his or her own personal use, and for a caregiver to manufacture only for the use of a patient to whom he or she is connected through the registry. It is now specifically illegal to separate plant resin by butane extraction in any public place, motor vehicle or inside or close to any residential structure, or without reasonable care for safety.

Patients and caregivers need to be aware of new rules requiring infused products (topical, tinctures, beverages and edibles) to be transported or possessed in a motor vehicle only if the product is in a sealed and labeled package carried in the trunk, or if no trunk, carried so as not to be readily accessible from the interior of the vehicle. In addition, the products must be labeled with 1) weight in ounces, 2) name of the manufacturer, 3) date of manufacture, 4) name of the person from whom the product was received (which now legally can be transferred only by that person’s caregiver, but which eventually will be manufactured by licensed processing facilities) and 5) date of receipt.

A caregiver is burdened with the additional requirement of possessing an accurate cannabis transportation manifest which, in addition to the above requirements also must contain 1) the destination name and address, 2) date and time of departure, 3) estimated date and time of arrival, and if applicable 4) the name and address of the person from whom the products was received and 5) date of receipt. The requirement of a caregiver carrying such a manifest does not apply only where the patient is the child, spouse or parent of the caregiver.

Thankfully, violation of the transport and labeling rules is only a civil infraction resulting in a fine of no more than $250. We owe a debt of thanks to former State Representative Jeff Irwin for keeping these violations from being treated as misdemeanors.

There is a curious provision at the very end of the extracts bill which says it applies retroactively, but also says “precluding an interpretation of ‘weight’ as aggregate weight, and excluding an added inactive substrate component of a preparation in determining the amount of marihuana, medical marihuana, or usable marihuana that constitutes and offense.” So at least retroactively, the brownie mix would not count for weight, and even the butter in the canna butter would not count for weight under that definition. One has to wonder whether the brownie mix counts for weight going forward, now that we have equivalents for infused products. Nobody ever accused the legislature of clarity, and so we will have to see what the court says about this issue when it arises, which it surely will.

Happy New Year to all. It’s going to be an interesting year!

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